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October 4, 2021
hearing loss and mental health
Hearing loss and mental health
October 8, 2021

Disclosing your hearing loss is not one size fits all

Disclosing your hearing loss is a personal choice. I like to disclose my hearing loss immediately. It gets the awkwardness of it out of the way, states my communications needs upfront, and avoids having to figure out how to add that disclosure to conversations down the road. But there are varying opinions on when to disclose.

Reasons for Disclosing Your Hearing Loss

Sometimes disclosing your hearing loss is not right in the moment. Sometimes I’m tired of telling people. There are many reasons that one might not disclose their hearing loss, including:

  • Joining an existing conversation. It can be awkward to announce a hearing loss.
  • Not wanting to explain how to speak. Sometimes others will over enunciate their words or speak very loudly when they learn of a hearing loss. Those things can make communication harder.
  • Being so used to the people around you knowing about your hearing loss, and assuming that everyone knows.
  • Fear of being looked over for an opportunity.
  • Don’t feel like it. It can be exhausting to always disclose. When I know I’ll have limited interaction with someone, I choose not to disclose.

Disclosing Your Hearing Loss When Dating

There are varying opinions on when to disclose. Many seem to agree that disclosing your hearing loss when you are dating is important. This is a person that you may be spending a lot of time with, and for some, a potential life partner. It’s important that when seeking a partner, you find one who accepts all of you.

Phonak hEARo Catalleya Storm says, “For dating, I let them know at the beginning. I’ve never gone on a date with someone who didn’t know.”

Read more: 7 Tips for Dating with Hearing Loss

Disclosing Your Hearing Loss in School Settings

With accommodations in schools, many people are quick to disclose as well. This is because school has an immediate and significant impact on grades, future, and career path. Disclosing hearing loss at college and university gives students access to the accommodations they need, and the ability to open doors for the needs of others after them.

Phonak hEARo Danielle Guth says, “I always disclose it in school settings because I receive necessary accommodations for my hearing loss specifically such as captioning and extended time on tests. So it’s not only necessary for me to disclose in this setting but incredibly beneficial to me and the teachers/professors/colleagues so I can get the most out of my education.”

“I always disclose it in school settings because I receive necessary accommodations for my hearing loss.”

Disclosing Your Hearing Loss at Work

There is mixed reaction about disclosing hearing loss in a job interview. Some fear that they will be overlooked, while others simply reserve the topic for when it comes up. It can come up when they don’t hear their interviewer, if they need an accommodation, or if it is relevant in answering a question.

There is also disagreement as to when to disclose while on the job. There are those who want to be treated the same as their hearing peers and choose not to disclose, and there are others who advocate for their needs right away. There’s also a third group that slowly discloses to their co-workers over time.

Read more: Learning to overcome poor communication habits caused by my hearing loss

Disclosing Your Hearing Loss in Social Situations

In everyday social situations, many evaluate on an as need basis. There’s no need to tell everyone. It’s also tiring not only to educate but to put your hearing loss at the top of your mind. When others are out and about, if they are comfortable, they tend to bring it up when an accommodation is needed.

Phonak hEARo PR Hilton says, “If I’m struggling a little, I might ask them to face me or repeat what they’ve said, and I explain that I wear hearing aids. I then bend down an ear and raise one of my hearing aids. The reaction is always a good one, with them being either surprised or shocked. I then get to turn the conversation around to hearing loss and help them understand. Little by little I feel I’m doing my bit for spreading the word.”

Disclosing Your Hearing Loss to Stay Safe

These are places where it’s in your interest to disclose for safety. For me personally, these are the doctors/ER, with the police, at airports or swimming/water sports. In those situations I’ll often wear some of my deaf apparel to make the message clear.

If you are afraid of disclosing or feel awkward, these are some tips for overcoming those feelings:

  • Wait for the right moment or a break in the conversation to disclose, or let someone know afterwards.
  • When I recognize that fear is keeping me from disclosing, I’ll stop to figure out what I’m afraid of and then work on addressing it (I’ve learned that when I disclose my hearing loss in interviews, it shows my level of confidence).
  • Practice self-advocacy in small ways. For example, stating your needs first – such as, “Can we move to a quieter spot to chat?” It helps build confidence for the moments where it might be important to disclose.
  • Find a script of short succinct words that others respond well to and seem to understand.
  • This script will be different for everyone due to our own tones, inflections, and body language.
  • If you start to feel more comfortable, you can wear some deaf apparel that advocates for you. It’s also a good conversation starter to help reduce stigmas.

Disclosing your hearing loss is not one size fits all. Everyone has different comfort levels and thoughts. Becoming comfortable with it is a journey.

Author Details
I’m a Hard of Hearing mom, originally from Canada and living in Southern California. When I’m not running my brand and design studio, I share stories online about raising my two Hard of Hearing daughters and advocating for hearing loss awareness.